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SJUW Provides Free Books to Local Children

St. John United Way (SJUW) wants to help improve future school performance by encouraging young children to pick up a book and read. As part of that effort, the organization sponsors Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a program that sends free books each month to children age birth to five.

“It’s very simple. Parents or guardians can go to and click the link on our home page that brings you to the Imagination Library site to register online,” said John Olynick, Community Impact Manager for St. John United Way.

Once registered, children receive one age-appropriate and often gender specific book delivered directly to their home every month. The first is always “The Little Engine That Could” by Arnold Munk. The last, “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come,” arrives in conjunction with the child’s fifth birthday.

Singer Dolly Parton started the Imagination Library in 1996 to get children interested in reading and encourage parents to read to their kids.

With the help of some community partners, SJUW kicked off their support of the program in 2012 and covers the cost of the Imagination Library. The cost of the program, which is roughly $24 per child per year, varies depending on how many books are sent and how many children are registered. Through SJUW, all children age birth to five living in St John Parish are eligible to participate, regardless of income.

“It’s worth it. Research shows this program is proven effective in increasing the frequency that parents read to their children and also increases the child’s enthusiasm for reading” Olynick said. “There have been many parents that have become readers along with their children, which is truly phenomenal.”

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library has 627,754 children registered nationwide. Since April 2012, SJUW has registered over 600 children in St. John the Baptist parish.

Brochures, which include registration forms, are available at all St John Parish libraries. They are also available at many local nurseries, preschools, and doctors’ offices.

For information or to become a funding partner for the 2013-2014 year, contact or call 985-651-9118.